Place-based Development and Streetcar Transforming Downtown Tucson

Tucson’s Sunlink streetcar opened in July 25, linking University of Arizona and its Health Sciences Center to the Fourth Avenue corridor, downtown, and a redevelopment district called Mercado.

Since the “modern streetcar” was announced in 2006, more than $1.5 billion in investment has occurred along its route, including housing, restaurants, offices, and retail, according to the US Department of Transportation.

“Since 2006, when Tucson voters approved the $2.1 billion Regional Transportation Plan that included the modern streetcar, downtown has seen aggressive redevelopment that has brought dozens of new restaurants, night clubs, bars and shops which have transformed it into a vibrant entertainment district,” the Daily Sunreported.

Similar stories have played out in many cities like Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, and Tampa that have installed streetcars (and taken many other steps that have including planning, infrastructure investments, and tax-increment financing) that resulted in big private investment.

The Mercado District is of particular interest to urbanists, including a new 14-acre neighborhood built of southwest adobe homes with narrow, winding streets.